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Pynchon leads National Book Award shortlists

If all the superlatives thrown at Eleanor Catton’s Booker win (longest book ever to win, youngest author ever to win), the universal warm fuzzy feelings engendered by Alice Munro’s Nobel win and the obligatory contrarian repudiation of at least one of those by Bret Easton Ellis weren’t enough to tip you off, we are firmly into end-of-year awards season, which continues apace with the announcement of this year’s National Book Awards shortlist. The annual awards, presented by the American non-profit National Book Foundation, consider nominees in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people’s literature, and this year sees some particularly well-known candidates.

Most notably, the fiction field is headlined by previous winner Thomas Pynchon, whose Bleeding Edge – published last month – is only his fifth novel since that previous win, for 1973’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Nominated alongside Pynchon are Jhumpa Lahiri for Booker finalist The Lowland, beloved short story master George Saunders for Tenth of December, Rachel Kushner for The Flamethrowers and James McBride for The Good Lord Bird.

Shortlisted in non-fiction are Lawrence Wright’s Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, Jill Lepore’s Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields and Alan Taylor’s The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832.

Up for the poetry award are Frank Bidart’s Metaphysical Dog, Lucie Brock-Broido’s Stay, Illusion, Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke, Matt Rasmussen’s Black Aperture and Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine: Poems.

Finally, listed for the young people’s literature prize are Kathi Appelt’s The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck, Tom McNeal’s Far Far Away, Meg Rosoff’s Picture Me Gone and Gene Luen Yang’s Boxers & Saints.

The winners of these awards, alongside two lifetime achievement prizes, are announced on November 20th, receiving $10,000 and a bronze sculpture for their troubles.

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Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

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